Mario Dubois on how educators can support the children's TV industry

Mario Dubois on how educators can support the children's TV industry

“The role of educators is critical. They show the path, lead the way and open doors. They inspire their students and highlight open career paths. Their role is to look at the opportunities, open their students’ eyes and help them find their future career. And do it with enthusiasm, insight, knowledge and credibility.” This is the clear message for educators at universities and colleges from ScreenSkills Select evaluator Mario Dubois, who has nearly 40 years’ broadcasting experience, most recently with the BBC as a commissioner and now as a freelance development consultant to multiple independent producers.

The need for educators to be at the forefront of the latest developments and innovation is also crucial, given their clear role is to prepare students for entry into the industry from both a technical perspective and creative perspective as well as informing students what the industry is really about, what the expectations are and what opportunities exist.

To Mario soft skills are as equally vital because employers want new entrants to be able to communicate, think quickly on their feet and prioritise – as well understanding the people around you and the need for teamwork. These employability skills are transferrable and provide a constant reminder for all students to always be on top of their game and adapt to the needs of their employer.

Supporting creativity is also a must with the need for educators to be able to encourage students to 'keep learning, think outside the box, think differently and innovate'. Mario brought this to life in his role at CBBC where he led new approaches to content delivery, such as interactive and immersive storytelling, interactive video, play along formats for high profile brands such as Horrible Histories, as well as a move to short-form content on social and digital platforms. His approach required a flexible frame of mind and developing new skills to keep BBC Children’s content both fresh and relevant to viewer needs. All this requires a creative mindset which Mario feels is key area for educators to continually instill into their students’ minds.

He also emphasised the need for educators to support students in having as broad understanding of the opportunities available. For example, those with great research skills, could be steered towards audience research, or those with great content production skills could be steered towards careers with corporates or sports/football clubs. Screen content - and who is commissioning it - is not as linear as it used to be due to technological advances, the range of platforms and also how consumers watch or listen. They have far greater autonomy now and that has to be recognised.

One area that Mario feels is vital is the need for greater collaboration between industry and education. Industry sees educators as the future and the nurturing ground for talent but can be reticent about engaging with educators as they know new talent is not always fully ready to fill the roles they need. However, the burden for this should not rest solely on the shoulders of educators but with industry too. Mario recognises that industry does not always do enough to ensure there is always alignment between them and educators. He has always seen bringing these two elements together as a key part his work for more than 30 years, especially across the north of England.

This includes working with Liverpool John Moores University, UCLAN, Manchester Metropolitan University, Salford University, University of York and University of Sunderland. Ensuring students have access to the local industry and events is as important as learning about the latest technique – it all has to be joined up.

Mario is very clear on the importance of ScreenSkills Select and why he wanted to be an industry evaluator. To him it is important to maintain the standards that will benefit industry and students, that courses are inspirational and will produce 'battle hardened and business-ready students who are able to take up the opportunities that are available'.  For educators 'having a kite mark is really important and differentiates you from everyone else and gives you confidence that you are providing expertise that is relevant, accurate, and forward-thinking'.

For students, they can have confidence that if they are studying on an endorsed course, they are 'getting the best of the best with an education that is both high quality and will give them access to expertise that other colleges and universities will not be able to provide them. The threshold that endorsed courses have to reach means students will be more employable, and with competition so fierce, this is vital'.

We always ask our hugely experienced industry evaluators what key piece of advice they would give to students today and Mario was very clear: “You have to be adaptable, evolve, look where you can add value and maximise your own potential. Follow your passion as that is where you are more likely to be successful." In choosing your course he discussed carrying out as much research as you can. Work out what skills a course will provide and where it will take you inthe future. He recounted the adage 'Fail to prepare. Prepare to fail' – a key message for students selecting courses.

Mario’s huge experience from working on productions from Doctor Who to Red Dwarf  and Dragon’s Den to more recently across a range of productions for BBC Children's, has given real depth to ScreenSkills Select and the endorsement process. With evaluators like Mario on board, industry and students can have real confidence in the high level of quality that courses have to reach before they become endorsed.

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